There are many, good blog posts out there about what Oracle is saying regarding their direction, product improvements and new offerings. I could rehash what others are saying, but what Oracle is not saying is what I want to talk about here.
I had the privilege of attending my first Oracle ACE Director’s Briefing last Thursday at Oracle’s HQ’s in Redwood City. It was an honor to be able to go and meet all the other ACED’s from around the world. There were times I was thrilled to catch up with friends and there were other times where I was a bit star struck. These are people that asked the PD’s and PM’s very direct and honest questions to better the community that includes YOU.
Friday, I attended the EPM Partner Advisory Council on behalf of my company. I found this to be particularly useful and enlightening. As everyone has seen, the focus from Oracle is cloud, cloud, cloud. And as we talked through different product directions and offerings, I found myself with more questions than answers they were giving. Let me break down my product thoughts and open questions from these sessions that were echoed throughout OpenWorld. I will caveat that all of these items are protected under the Safe Harbor statement, meaning they may or may not happen.
Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS)
One of the main goals of cloud services was the ability to move away from platform limitations and move towards tool configurability. Whereas PBCS has been around for a while now, EPBCS will be released (Enterprise PBCS). PBCS is introducing the standard modules you can use via on-premises Planning (CapEx, WFP, etc). The goal of EPBCS is to explain what the number are…here’s what happened and why.
Since 02/14/2014 (release of PBCS), there are now 700+ customers (200+ live) and 50,000+ end users. An interesting quote from Matt Bradley was, “We learned how to implement Planning and started to understand the challenges to Planning implementations.” Whereas the majority of Planning implementations are still financial applications, Oracle wants to move towards more sales/marketing and HR applications.
The goal is to take EPM out of finance, meaning create applications that are not only finance focused. They also want to create better integration and less siloing with other Oracle applications – true integration.
The user interface will be the simplified UI, no classic or EPMA interface. The webform will occupy the full screen. There will be right-click menu items to choose options. There is currently no plan for on-premises clients to go to the simplified UI.
Enterprise Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (EPBCS)
This is meant to be “one step up” from PBCS. It intends to address the holes in use cases in sales and operations. Small and medium size enterprises will be able to engage corporate finance, sales and operations in one place. It will also offer the same offerings as PBCS, such as financials, workforce planning, CapEx and project management. EPBCS will set one price for all of these modules, versus adding them all.
With the financials, you will have integrated financial statement planning (IS, CF, BS) and the option for driver-based planning out of the box. With the workforce module, you will be able to link financial plans with workforce execution. Project will bridge gaps between project planning systems and financial planning processes. In the financials portion, there will be sub-processes for revenue (allowance for flex dimensions such as Product, Market, Customer, etc), expenses (pre-built integration with workforce planning and CapEx), balance sheet (configurable for industry) and cash flow (direct and indirect method). There will also be out of the box functionality for driver-based accounts, trend-based accounts and manual accounts. Included will also be out of the box FR reports. Everything that is in PBCS will be in EPBCS.
A question I asked was regarding if a client wanted to move from PBCS to EPBCS, will that be possible? While this is technically easy, the licensing is still something that Oracle is working through.
The plan is to start addressing the operational planning user’s needs. The user experience is to keep an Excel-like environment but remove the Excel challenges while keeping the advantages of Excel. Provision for deeper models will include SKU and employee level planning. Companies will be able to work on larger data sets versus smaller chunks of data. There will be an extensible scripting language for custom reporting from the planning cloud services.
Essbase Cloud Services (EssCS)
Not only did I get to hear about this new and upcoming offering, I got to see a demo of it during OOW. If you want to try and think of EAS put into the cloud, you are thinking about it the wrong way. This is completely redesigned and streamlined. I think most finance people will enjoy the simplicity of this tool. Its release is versioned 12, meaning you won’t see it in the coming quarters in the version 11 releases. You will be limited to a certain number of cube deployments, but if you have more than one instance, you can still talk between them using REST APIs. There will be federation with IDM (Identity Management), Oracle’s offering for a seamless login across their cloud platforms using your laptop, as an example.
Enterprise Performance Reporting Cloud Services (EPRCS)
I believe this is one of the most talked about cloud services (other than EssCS) this year. This is a service to offer reporting for statutory and management reporting needs. What I found most interesting about this offering is that there is a planning-like workflow attached to reporting up the chain from analyst to CFO. Meaning, if there is an incorrect number, it can be addressed before it gets published internally or externally. These reports are secure, auditable and access is role-based. There will be a library repository (somewhat similar to the library in Workspace currently) where you can upload files of any type. Because it is native to EPM style dimensionality, you can store data in the cloud for report packages and analytics via Smart View. EPRCS is meant to be used horizontally, meaning it crosses all verticals and organizations. Report versioning is built into the system. A new ribbon will be available in Smart View called “Performance Reporting” to facilitate al of EPRCS’s offerings. The scoping implementation is goal is less than 1 day.
Data Visualization Cloud Service (DVCS)
This is…cool. I’m a user (free version) of Tableau and love how I can take data and quickly make it a picture. DVCS will give Tableau a run for their money. As with Tableau, you can take raw data and create visualizations within minutes. You can take data from your personal stash (text based), SaaS and on-premises data and create an integrated picture. What IT will love about this offering is that there is zero IT support required. Although it is currently a stand-alone tool, integration is coming.
Now…What Oracle Didn’t Say
- Much of on-premises anything. It seems the bugs we have lived through for many releases will not be addressed anytime soon. So the question is where do the on-premises customers stand in the development process? How quickly will support issues and upgrades be handled?
- Given that cloud services as basically a subscription service and there is little customization to be done, where do the “big” players (larger companies who have already implemented on-premises solutions larger than a cloud service can handle) go for product improvement? A 50GB limit won’t go over well for a Fortune 500 company.
- A roadmap beyond the cloud offerings for the small to medium sized businesses. This tags along with the 2nd bullet point, but there are more questions than answers for those not using the cloud.
- Although you can talk between cloud and on-premises implementations via REST APIs and Groovy, it seems you need to be pretty technical to handle the non-technical cloud integrations. Why make this so difficult?
There are some neat things that Oracle is offering for the cloud, but the holes left for the on-premises people is quite disappointing. Maybe I’m overreacting to the non-discussions, maybe it’s because there are more questions than answers at this point. Regardless, this is my $0.02 from OpenWorld 2015. That’s a wrap until next year!